Lee Line and safety

When James Lee founder of the Lee Line Steamers was a young man, he rushed to rescue a trapped mate when a boiler burst and wrecked part of his boat.  In the process of pulling the injured mate away from the boiler spewing hot water and steam, his legs were badly scalded.   Even though Capt. Jim was a tall talker with such tales as “I’ve been blowed up by steamboats in 21 states and several territories.  On most occasions everybody on board perished except myself.  Pieces of my skull is layin’ around loose all up and down the river.”  In complete seriousness  though, he intended to keep his 300 pounds together.  Capt. Jim did not permit wild races.  No putting anvils on the safety valves of his boilers tying them down to get a bigger and bigger head of steam until everyone went to kingdom come.  The Lee Line did engage in time trials in 1885 when the steamer JAMES LEE made a trial run against the KATE ADAMS for a mail contract.  His newspaper ads since 1857 had been telling gospel truth when they styled him “one of the oldest and best … commanders of the Western Waters.  When he was called “a sure guarantee of safety,” that was steamboat puffing. But his boat was as safe as any; far safer than some finer ones. (Memphis Down in Dixie)

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